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Asthma Facts and Figures



Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the air passages resulting in the temporary narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. Asthma symptoms can be caused by allergens or irritants that are inhaled into the lungs, resulting in inflamed, clogged and constricted airways. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can be deadly.

  • There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
  • More Americans than ever before are suffering from asthma. It is one of this country's most common and costly diseases.

  • Approximately 25.9 million Americans suffer from asthma (8% of adults, 10% of children), and asthma affects over 230 million people worldwide. The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.i
  • Asthma is the leading chronic disease among children and the leading reason for missed school days.ix
  • Asthma is more common among adult women than adult men.i
  • Asthma is more common among boys than girls.i
  • Asthma is more common among children (1 in 10) than adults (1 in 12).i
  • Nearly 7.1 million asthma sufferers are under the age of 18.ii
  • In 2011, the asthma prevalence rate for African Americans was 47% higher than for Caucasians.ii


  • Asthma accounts for almost 2 million emergency room visits each year.iii
  • Each year, asthma accounts for more than 8 million doctor visits and 479,000 hospitalizations.iv 
  • The average length of stay (LOS) for asthma hospitalizations is 3.6 days.v 
  • Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization children.iii 
  • African Americans are three times mor likely to be hospitalized from asthma.vi 


Social and Economic Costs

  • The annual cost of asthma is estimated to be $56 billion.iii
  • Direct costs accounted for nearly $50.1 billion (hospitalizations the single largest portion of direct cost) and indirect costs of $ 5.9 billion (lost earnings due to illness or death).viii 
  • In 2008, more than half of children and one-third of adults missed school or work due to their asthma.iv
  • For adults, asthma is one of the leading causes of work absenteeism and loss of productivity with more than 14 million work days lost each year. This accounts for approximately $2 billion of asthma’s indirect costs.iv viii 
  • Among children ages 5 to 17, asthma is one of the leading causes of school absences. It accounts for an annual loss of more than 10.5 million school days per year.iii 



  • See AAFA's landmark research report on Disparities in Asthma Care published in partnership with the National Pharmaceutical Council. 
  • Ethnic differences in asthma prevalence, morbidity, and mortality are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens, and lack of patient education and inadequate medical care.  
  • Recently the greatest rise in asthma was among African American children: 1 in 6 African American children have asthma.iv
  • African Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma.vi
  • African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma, and African American women have the highest mortality rate of all groups due to asthma.vi iv  
  • 16% of African American children have asthma compared to 8.2% of white children.ii
  • For African Americans, the rate of emergency department visits is 330% higher and the rate of hospitalizations is 220% higher compared to whites.iii
  • Approximately 3 million Hispanics in the US have asthma and Puerto Ricans are disproportionately impacted.iii
  • Current asthma prevalence is 80% higher for Puerto Ricans than whites.ii
  • Puerto Ricans have the highest rate of asthma attacks.ii


  • In 2011, 8 million women had an asthma attack compared to 5.1 million men.ii
  • Women account for almost 65% of asthma deaths overall.vii


  • An average of 1 out of every 10 school-aged children have asthma.iii
  • Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization children.iii
  • In 2009, 1 in 5 children with asthma went to the emergency department.iv
  • Boys are more likely to have asthma than girls, but women are more likely to have asthma than men.iii
  • Adults are nearly seven times more likely than children to die due to asthma.ix  
  • The asthma death rate was highest for people 65 or older.v

iNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Asthma. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/asthma/Pages/default.aspx. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
iiTrend in Mortality and Morbidity. American Lung Association. September 2012. 
http://www.lung.org/finding-cures/our-research/trend-reports/asthma-trend-report.pdf. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
iiiUnited States Environmental Protection Agency. Asthma Facts. March 2013. 
http://www.epa.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_fact_sheet_en.pdf. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
ivCDC. National Center for Environmental Health. Asthma’s Impact on the Nation: Data from the CDC National Asthma Control Program.
 http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/impacts_nation/asthmafactsheet.pdf. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
vCDC. National Surveillance of Asthma: United States, 2001-2010. 
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.html. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
viHeron M, HOyert D, Murphy S, etc. CDC. National Vital Statistics Reports. Death: Final Data for 2006. 2009 April;57
 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
viiCDC. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC Wonder On-line Database, 1999-2009. 2012. Series 20. No 20. 
http://wonder.cdc.gov/. (Retrieved April 7 2015)
viiiBarnett S and Numagambetov T. Costs of asthma in the United States: 2002-2007. JACI. 2011 Jan:127(1);145-152. DOI:
 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.020. http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(10)01634-9/abstract (Retrieved April 7 2015)
ixCDC. Asthma Facts: CDC’s National Asthma Control Program Grantees. 2013
 http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_facts_program_grantees.pdf. (Retrieved April 7 2015)

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www.aafa.org 1-800-7-ASTHMA